Does my House own my Heart?

Christmas Lights

A few months ago, I had to find the perfect couch for our living room.  Any spare moment, I would whip out the ipad and search online.  I made pinterest boards.  I found other pieces of furniture that we just had to have.  I was obsessed.

I was tired of our house looking like a bunch of college guys lived in it: mismatched, hand-me down chairs; ancient tables falling apart; the Kramer on the mantle (though I still think that is kinda fun).  I am nearing 30.  I have a child.  I should have grown-up furniture.

There was a time when I didn’t care about furniture.  When we rented our tiny duplex, the mismatched chairs were charming, the ancient table a family heirloom, the Kramer — just a kitschy piece of our personality.  If I didn’t have the right curtains or the right piece of furniture there, I didn’t care.  It wasn’t our forever home.  What we had was good enough.

But as soon as we bought a house, what we had was suddenly not good enough anymore.  I spent countless hours online and in Home Depot and Home Goods finding rugs and curtains and couches.  I was a bit whiney and extremely agitated until we got the perfect rug or the right couch for upstairs.  But it didn’t seem to end.

I was itching for more, until one day I realized that my house had taken over valuable real estate in my heart.  I was so focused on prettying up my house that I had no room in my heart for others in need.  I was the one who needed…another pillow cushion for the couch.  I realized that Matthew 6:21 was right: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  I didn’t want to be the kind of person whose heart was focused only on the material.  My discontent was becoming all of me.

So I stopped searching on the internet.  I started repurposing furniture we already had.  I started to see our mismatched furniture as quirks of our personality.  I started to be thankful for the fact that we have a house and furniture.  Somewhere in all the blessings I was given, I had forgotten to be grateful.

I am grateful now.  And ashamed — not for wanting a nice house with pretty things, but for allowing my house to own me instead of the other way around.

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Pregnant (Really Long) Pause

Well, this pause was a little longer than I intended – lasting nearly my entire pregnancy.  I thought I would be one of those bloggers who would post belly pictures and talk in intimate detail about every facet of pregnancy.  Well, the opposite occurred:  I suddenly felt intensely private.  Everything happening to my body, everything I was thinking was so all-consuming that I could not imagine sharing such an experience with others.  I just didn’t have the words…or the time.

I really haven’t had time to blog with preparing a new house, preparing my mind by reading about pregnancy and caring for a child, and preparing to actually bring a child home (i.e. making sure the kid has a place to sleep).   You might think I would have spent a lot of this time reflecting about how my life will change, but I do most of my self-reflection in this blog, so not much of that has occurred.  Well, I figured that I better get reflecting because my time will soon no longer be my own.

So here are the facts:

Due Date: December 31st.  And if you see me in the near future, please don’t tell me that you think the baby should be born on this date for the tax savings or on January 1st so we can be in the newspaper (or some people seem to think he’ll be eligible for a college scholarship).  I know people are just trying to make conversation when they see my mound of a belly, but I’ve about had it with people telling me when he should come.  The kid will come when he wants to, and even I have to deal with that timetable (Sorry – that is the only venting you’ll get from me about the annoyances of pregnancy).

The Baby:  It’s a boy and his name is Henry Texas Howard.  Henry is not a family name, nor is he named after the numerous famous Henrys throughout time.  Ted and I simply liked the name.  Texas is the family name (if it can be called that) – mostly to commemorate our love of the State Fair of Texas and the fact that Ted’s family has been in Texas a long time.  As of our doctor’s visit today, Henry is about 7 pounds and almost finished growing.

The Body:  I feel I’ve had a relatively easy pregnancy.  I’ve even relished in some of the more unpleasant moments because I know that all of it is bringing me to the end result: meeting this little guy.  I also feel like I’ve had some things to complain about, but I feel like complaining about them only focuses your energy on the negative rather than the positive.  So, the old mantra really rings true for me:  if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.   But truly, I’ve felt healthier during my pregnancy – mostly because my little Henry and the hormones my body has created to carry him have caused my migraines to lessen in frequency and intensity.  I can only give thanks to God for making that particular aspect of pregnancy a wonderful reprieve for me.

The Reality: In 10 days or fewer or more, I will become a mother.  Weird. In a way I feel prepared because I have a crib (even clean sheets on the mattress), the child has clothes, and I have read just about every book under the sun about caring for an infant.  In other ways, I feel totally and hopelessly unprepared, but if I have learned anything from other new mothers, it is that you can in no way be prepared for this life-changing event.

If you know me, you know I’m not good with change, but I am left strangely content with all the change that has already happened and all the change that will come in the future.  With this mystery awaiting me, I am content to wait upon the Lord to see what new wonders he will bring me.

A Pregnant Pause

In case you haven’t heard:  Ted and I are expecting a baby (not sure what gender or species yet).  The party is on December 31, 2011!  This recent development has been my excuse for not blogging:  I didn’t have the energy, didn’t have the interest (might have been the energy thing), and was sitting on my news until the obligatory 1st trimester had passed.  I’ve had quite a lot on my mind, but just wasn’t ready to share it.  Now I am:  watch out.  (If you want a better excuse for a blogging absence, read my friend Shanna’s blog post.)

This year, I decided to follow the word contentment.  Everyone around me was buying a house and having babies, and I felt left behind.  I decided to be grateful for what I had, being content in any circumstance.  And I was doing okay…fell off the wagon a bit, but was mostly grateful.  Well, now I am getting everything I wanted.  Not only am I pregnant, but Ted and I are about 2 weeks away from closing on a house.  The American Dream is swiftly becoming our own.

And this is what gives me pause…God has now blessed me with those things I was (im)patiently waiting for, but getting everything I wanted makes me realize how my contentment is still dependent on my circumstances.

I feel somewhat content because I’m getting everything I want.  I’m very excited/terrified to be having a kid, and I’m really looking forward to putting down roots in this neighborhood we love, but there is an opportunity cost to everything.  Being pregnant and buying a house has taken over my life.  Yes, these are things I wanted, but not necessarily what should be the driving focus of my life.  And I can tell you that they have been.  The focus of my life should be others, and I haven’t really thought much about ANYONE ELSE but me since I became pregnant.   If my circumstances had not changed, I might have my priorities a little straighter.  Instead of searching for Consumer Reports approved baby products, I could be helping my sister-in-law with my niece much more often.  Instead of dreaming of the space that I’ll have in my new house, perhaps I should be offering to clean one of my friend’s who is uber-busy.  Instead of bemoaning my nausea, I should have been visiting someone really sick in the hospital.

I have everything I want, but I’m not content, and I don’t think I should be.  I shouldn’t be content because my new circumstances have made me more selfish than usual.  I talk about wanting to be a thoughtful person, but my thoughts have been with how to keep from being nauseated and where I’d put our furniture in the new house.  My circumstances are right where I want them, but if I can’t be a thoughtful person in those circumstances, then I should not be content.  I think I needed a good, swift kick in the pants, and now that I’ve given myself one, I can refocus on becoming the person I want to be, not the person who is still ruled by her circumstances, even if those circumstances are wonderful.

Contentment Update: Epic Fail or Gratitude Works?

I binged on coveting a week ago.  I searched for houses I cannot afford, even making Ted drive us around to see the addresses.  I wanted a baby in my arms, not my niece, not my friend’s child, but my child, the one who doesn’t exist yet, not even in the womb.  I wanted to find my happiness in situations rather than in God.

For the first part of the year, I was resolved to follow contentment, and when I was busy or sick or watching TV, I didn’t have time to think about my desires for the things I do not have.  Then, in the middle of this Lenten season when I should be more focused on God, this need welled up inside me.  I think this desire started to pool in my heart because I had not been thanking God everyday for what he has blessed me with, which is a lot.

At the end of this day, anxious and fretful, I finally reached for my pen and prayer journal and began to pray.  I thanked God for all the small moments in my life, the ones that make me feel like my life should be no other way: the way the wood on the front porch feels underneath my bare feet, the way a look from Ted can make me feel like the most loved woman in the world, the way a student smiles when she finally understands.  Miraculously, all those desires, they didn’t completely go away, but they didn’t envelop me anymore, consume my energy.

Perhaps I haven’t had an epic failure so much as a stumbling block on my path to contentment.  Gratitude is the antidote, one that I must always keep in mind.

Have you ever desired something so much it consumed you?  How were you able to overcome it?

Word of the Year: Content

I have borrowed the idea for this post from my friend Katie: choosing a word to follow for an entire year.  I am choosing a word that I want to live up to and constantly be reminded of.  I could have perhaps chosen gratitude or thanksgiving, but there is something about the word content that reminds me to be grateful and give thanks to God for everything, just as it is, good or bad.  And for the most part, this year is good.  I’ve got a job I love (how many people can say that?), a husband who always knows what I need, a family surrounding me with love, and great and deepening relationships with friends.  I have much to be content with, but I have chosen to follow this word through 2011 because it seems I need reminding of all the blessings God has given me.  My life seems to be standing still while many of my friends and family are starting new adventures, new chapters in their lives.

I started off this year thinking about grad school, entertaining the idea of getting a Ph.D. in Composition and Rhetoric.  A few of my friends are currently in grad school, learning new and interesting things about the historical context of the Bible, or how the human body fits together.  I found myself wanting to learn more, wanting to further my career opportunities.  While this idea still excites me, I have realized it is not the right time (especially because I have already missed the deadline for admission in the fall).  Instead, I am slowly reading through those scholars and writers who will most likely inform my views in this area, creating a self-paced course of study.  I will follow content in learning new things at a slower pace.

This year, so far, has also been the year of the baby.  Everyone seems to be having babies.  One of my best friends, Brianne, just had the cutest little girl; Mary, my sister-in-law, will give birth in two weeks; another of my best friends just shared her good news; and every woman at my church between the ages of 25 and 35 seems to be harboring a low-slung beach ball of joy.  Ted and I would like to start a family, but it seems I have surprisingly little say about when my own beach ball will appear.  I will follow content in enjoying all these precious lives that are beginning — and perhaps gloating, just a little, about getting a full eight hours of sleep a night.

I will follow content, rising each morning to say, “This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.”  I will follow content and realize that God has given me everything I need to be with him each day.